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Mr Samuel Oladele Afolayan is the Acting Executive Director, Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI), Ilorin, Kwara State. He speaks with Tunde Oyekola on
the achievements of the 32- year- old institute, what government should do to encourage people into commercial farming, the agricultural transformation agenda of the Federal Government, how to produce enough wheat, rice and cassava in the next three years, among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What are the achievements of the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI) so far?
ARMTI was established in 1980, but it started operation about 30 years ago. It was established to cater for the provision of manpower in the agricultural sector especially for the agricultural development projects for which the Federal Government took a loan in the 70s. By then, there were no qualified Nigerians to manage the projects, so, ARMTI was established to train manpower for the projects and by early 90s, all the states had been covered. So, the institute trained managers to manage the projects and within the last 30 years, we have trained over 30,000 managers at both the middle and senior managerial levels to manage our agricultural projects.
Do you think the institute has fulfilled its mandatory objectives?
ARMTI is making waves in the country. Training is a continuous excercise in the institute because people have to upgrade their knowledge. This is what ARMTI has been doing from time to time.
As an expert in agriculture, how do you think Nigeria can be food sufficient or increase its production?
In Nigeria today, majority of agricultural producers are becoming old and the young ones are not ready to experience the drudgery in agriculture. Therefore, there is the need to modernise the practice of farming because if modern machines are available to practise agriculture, then the young ones will be encouraged to go into it. Also, there is need for the government to encourage commercial agriculture. I ’m not saying the government should go into commercial agriculture, but it should put in place policies to encourage private individuals to go into commercial farming because I know that the government is trying by establishing pilot commercial agricultural development projects which is now operating in five states of the federation.
Government should also put infrastructural facilities in place to encourage people to go into commercial farming. These include; good roads, rural electrification, good and modern storage facilities and potable water in rural areas so that when farmers harvest their produce, it would be easy for them to transport produce to the urban areas for marketing. The government has also set aside about N200 billion to fund commercial agriculture and the conditions have been spelt out for people to access it. This will also encourage increased food production because farmers have been given the opportunity to access some farm inputs at a subsidised rate under the agricultural transformation agenda.
Honestly, this programme is quite different from what we used to witness in the past because farm inputs are being distributed through some appointed distributors so that the inputs would get to the farmers at the appropriate time.
Within the last few years, government has established more agricultural institutes and universities, yet, food production have not been seen to increase, what do you think is wrong with our policy on agriculture?
I will not agree with you that our food production index have not increased because since population is increasing, we have not had the problem of food shortage or crisis. We’ve been able to feed ourselves and the problem we have is that we’ve not been able to export more food officially, but our people have been engaged in the illegal smuggling of food commodities across the borders without official record.
Our problem in Nigeria is that of indiscipline because our people are used to the habit of smuggling food items to countries like Chad, Niger Republic, Cameroun and Republic of Benin.
If we are disciplined enough and we are able to improve on the processing of our food crops such as rice and others locally, within the next three years, government transformation agenda will be manifesting.
We have enough facilities to produce wheat, rice and cassava and if within this period, we improve our production capacity on these crops under the transformation agenda, then, we will be food sufficient and we will be able to export some of these agricultural produce.
What advice do you have for the government that you believe would help to improve our agricultural sector?
The first thing I will say is that leaders at various levels of government should be sincere and consistent. They should practise what they say, they should also allow a policies projects to mature before they judging or thinking of abandoning them. They should allow continuity in projects execution. If they meet a project on ground, they should contribute to it and make it better, instead of abandoning it. The state government should also encourage the development of agriculture because it is a grassroot project. The state should also realise that agricultural production is their responsibility and they should not see the Federal Government as their competitor in agriculture. The Federal Government is to make policies and assist them with inputs but basically, agricultural development is one of the functions of state government.
What are the constraints facing the Institute?
The major constraint facing the institute is shortage of experienced staff to train the managers. Some of the staff who either retired or resigned from the institute have not been replaced because there was no recruitment exercise between 1992 and 2010. Between this period, some of our experienced staff who retired have not been replaced.
Another problem we are facing now is an inadequate funding. Before 1989, our training programme had gone beyond the shore of this country and between 1989 and 1995, we have covered 14 or 15 of the commonwealth countries because of the support we received from the Commonwealth headquarters.
But in 1995, the support was withdrawn because of the political problem which Nigeria had under the late General Sani Abacha. The support has not been restored despite the fact that the country has returned to democratic system of government. Although, ARMTI is still training participants from some Afro-Asia countries, but this is part of the contributions of Nigeria to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which Nigeria signed to contribute to the Afro-Asian rural development and we have trained participants from 29 countries in Asia and Africa. Some of the participants came from India, Parkistan, Mauritius, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania and other countries.Share